Last week, we dove into the discrepancy between Ole Miss’ elite pitching staff and its impotent lineup, pointing out that even a modest increase in plate production could make the Rebels one of the most dangerous teams in the SEC.
If only for a weekend, the bats and arms synced up during Ole Miss’ series sweep of Alabama. The Rebels, who came into the series ranked dead last among SEC teams in scoring, posted at least five runs in all three games for the first time since the second weekend of the season. A club that was hitting .242 on the year flirted with .300 through the weekend and mashed four dingers, including a solo shot to walk off in the bottom of the ninth on Saturday.
This all comes with the caveat that Bama, which is now 2-7 in the conference, is a bad team with a thin pitching staff. And it should be noted that the Rebels’ run production wasn’t consistent throughout the series—they trailed 4-1 entering the bottom of the sixth on Saturday and clung to a 2-1 lead heading into the seventh on Sunday.
The runs came eventually, though, and Ole Miss fought back from last weekend’s sweep at the hands of Mississippi State to even its SEC record at 6-6. With the SEC standings condensing after a series losses from Arkansas, the Rebels find themselves in fifth place in the West but just 2.5 games out of the division lead (at 8-4, State owns the tiebreaker).
The big question now is whether last weekend’s success at the plate was an aberration or the beginning of a hot streak. If it’s the latter, Ole Miss has a chance to play its way into contention in the West.
The beer showers are back.
Trailing by three runs in the bottom of the sixth on Saturday, a Rebel rally knotted the game at 4 apiece before the contest settled back into a pitchers’ duel. With coolers running on empty in the outfield and the game teetering on the brink of extras, Tate Blackman stepped to the plate to walk it off with a solo shot to left.
Tater wasn’t the only one to leave the yard. Nick Fortes and Tim Rowe each hammered solo shots in the sixth inning during Friday’s 7-2 win and Will Golsan’s two-run homer in the seventh on Sunday helped turn a close game into an 8-2 W.
Speaking of Fortes and Rowe, they’re raking.
With his young lineup struggling, Mike Bianco has reached into his dugout to find production. Neither Fortes or Rowe were starters a month ago, but they’re currently the top two hitters on the team.
Rowe is a JUCO transfer who initially struggled to find his footing at the DI level this season, spending most of the early going giving up DH at-bats to fellow JUCO Chase Cockrell. But sometime after Rowe sacrificed his glorious mustache to the baseball gods, he was rewarded him with a hot bat. After a 6-of-9 showing against Bama, the big fella is up to .314 on the season and has become the primary designated hitter.
And if that’s not enough to win you over, both his Twitter handle and his double celebration is a reference to rowing a boat.
Fortes spent most of the season stuck behind freshman Cooper Johnson, one of the best catcher prospects in the country. But while Johnson’s elite defensive skills kept him in the starting spot for a long while, his sub-.200 batting average finally necessitated a change two weeks ago. Fortes, himself a highly-ranked recruit a couple of years ago, has seized the opportunity and tops the team with a .316 average after a 5-for-9 outing over the weekend.
If veterans like Blackman, Colby Bortles and Will Golsan can find consistency and some of the freshmen can catch up to the competition level, this offense could heat up in a hurry.